Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Photos with Father Christmas is not the same as photos with Santa Claus

Maybe some of you were wondering why I only included a photo of Seth on Santa's lap yesterday (at least my parents were thinking this), but it was too choice not to leave it to it's own post as this illustrates so well a part of British culture that does not compute in America....well at least not where I'm from.  

Exhibit A:

Annual picture with Santa fail.
This is as close as she would get, and I don't think I need to tell you how she felt about it.
Call me a bad mom, but I was totally fine with having Santa hold her and getting that quintessential crying with Santa photo, but British Santas frown on this and will not take screaming children.
What?!  Who does not own a photo with Santa where at least one sibling is crying?  Anyone?

Seth never went through the "scared of Santa" phase which I was always kind of proud of since all of our photos, he's totally cool about it.

Who, this guy?  We go way back.

I figured Avery wouldn't be as willing since she's always been a mama's girl, but she surprised me her first Christmas.

Let's take a little trip down memory lane and check out the difference between Photos with Santa in the US and the UK.  I only did one or the other each year because I am not a glutton for punishment.

Texas 2010 - Seth at 6 months
I don't even think they had a sit with Santa option this year in Edinburgh.

Texas 2011: Seth at 18 months (and photo credit to Memorial City Photographers).
I thought he might cry this year because all of his cousins screamed for their 18 month Santa photo.
Um no.  This kid loves Santa. And I'm pretty sure that is actually Santa Claus - I mean look at him.
No wonder Seth didn't cry! Best.Santa.Ever.

Now we knew getting to Houston on Christmas Eve wouldn't give us enough time to make it for Avery to have her first Santa Photo with Santa himself, but we settled for Father Christmas in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh 2012: Seth 2.5, Avery 9 months
She looks concerned, but she was actually totally fine and was just pointing out the twinkly lights.
Main difference between Edinburgh sit with Santa and US...where do I even begin?!  It's literally a gold chair under an arch covered in fake greenery and lights sitting in an open area in a mall.  That's it.  No photographer trying to nickel and dime you, no back drop blocking the pink fluorescent store lights in the background, and most obviously no Santa hat - what?  Is he supposed to look like a festive Jawa?
And actually I'm fine with all that because no fuss equals no queue line!

I noticed this year as Christmas drew nearer that Santa's photo area had been revamped.  I wondered how this would affect the line and if that meant we would now have to pay a photographer to photograph our children.  Wait.  What? Even hearing that somebody could force you to pay someone else to take a photo of your child with Santa instead of allowing you to just do it yourself  for free sounds so wrong - I can't imagine that happening here (at least not in Scotland...maybe in London).  But my fears were assuaged when we showed up with the kids dressed up and nary a photographer or line was to be seen.  If only my daughter would have cooperated.  Or Santa had only just held her long enough for me to snap one shot.

And we've gotta end with this photo again because her face is so classic.
Edinburgh 2013: Seth 3.5 seriously contemplating what he'd like for Christmas,
Avery 21 months and


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

{12 Days of Christmas Traditions} Day Nine: Just Kidding

Sorry to leave you hanging by not posting how we do Santa like I said I would (like you even remember I promised this!), but hosting Christmas at your house is a big job!  I am just now recovered! But seriously, I never realized how much work it is for Christmas Day to happen when it's at your house.  It was fun, and not having jet lag was a major bonus, but whew!  I appreciate my mom and mom-in-law so much more now.  They make it look effortless!  Next year I plan on re-posting my 8 days and actually including the last 4. We'll call this a New Year's Resolution though that will probably kill it dead right there.

I've been thinking about the blog lately and how I abandon it every so often.  I love writing. I love how it's a great way to look back on our lives, but I don't want it to turn into: and then we did this, and then we did that, and then and then, etc etc BORING.  I hate writing like that more than I dislike reading stuff like that.  This however means that I must have a muse and there just hasn't been one.

Taylor has encouraged me that writing leads to more writing (and he should know since he's currently writing a book) and to just go for it; if I wait for a muse every time, then I'll never be consistent.

I also realized I'm not doing a great job of capturing what it's like to live as an American in Scotland, and as our time here comes closer and closer to an end, I know I'll regret it if I don't.  Seth will remember a little bit of his childhood here, but Avery probably won't (even though she is our true Scot), so I want them to be able to come back here and see a glimpse of what it was like. And hopefully this will give my friends back home some insight into why I'll be a homebody who wears wellies even on sunny days and suggests we walk to inappropriate places (think the grocery store or the park not actual inappropriate places because Houston is not what you would call a "walkable" city) when I move back. Who complains that Downton Abbey is on during the wrong season and how the season finale shouldn't just be the last episode, but should air on Christmas Day effectively ruining the most wonderful time of the year. Who calls her stroller "a buggy," shopping cart "a trolley," lollipops "lollies," and other vernacular I've picked up without realizing it.  Who never answers her mobile phone (and calls it a "mo-bye-ul" phone). And whose kids do not know how to swim (this will be the first issue we'll deal with upon our return!).

As much as moving here provided many culture stressors, moving back may prove to be as difficult.

Point #1: Every time we leave the house, my children assume, "we're walking, right?" and proceed to whine and beg on the rare occasion I say we're going in the car because it's too far to walk.  Seth's favorite mantra these days is, "I super do not like our house.  I want to go back to Texas." (I'm sure this has nothing to do with the fact that it's either his birthday or Christmas every time we go to Texas) So the other day when he said this, I told him, "in Houston, you never walk, you always have to ride in the car and they don't even have double decker buses. " He just stared at me, dumbfounded.

Point #2: I can count on one hand how many times my children have gone on trips to the "big" grocery store with me.  I will definitely be looking into online grocery ordering when I get back because wow - could I ever go back to shopping myself?  I don't think so.

Point #3: There is no "rat race" here.  Kids are signed up for a million activities by the time they're 3 in America.  In the UK, parents take advantage of all of the free stuff to do around the city (granted there are way more free things to do here) - music classes, playgroups, the National Museum of Scotland to name a few. And they don't even worry about how this might setback their future Olympic hopes. (This might also explain the slight discrepancy between the US and the UK's medal counts...just a theory).

Point #4: No one ever calls me.  My friends and I make plans when we see each other (at all of the free events around the city), or email,  or shout plans out window of our flat down to friends in the garden because I share a garden with most of my friends), or on the sidewalk when we see each other in town, and as a last resort text.  I love not being a slave to my phone, but in Houston more people will need access to me.

So if you're interested in what it's like to live in Scotland, check back!

And here are some Christmas photos to catch up:

 When he's older, I'm sure he'll love that I put him in a longall at 3 - even my mom gave me a hard time about it. :)
But he LOVED it because it has Buddy the Elf on it!
Christmas Eve service

Avery right after opening her ornament on Christmas Eve; I think she liked it!

Seth opening his Chrismtas Eve jammies

Patiently waiting to go in the living room on Christmas morning
Sister was super excited about her new toothbrush.
Wish she was this excited when it's actually time to brush her teeth!
Fun car from Mia and Popsie
I love Seth's face in this one.  Diapers?!
And no, we didn't get him diapers, read here if you're confused.
Sister means business - she was so funny opening her presents Christmas morning - much less enthusiasm compared to Christmas Eve!
And when she was all done, she'd say, "prisints?" I think she mostly preferred unwrapping though this particular toy makes a debut all over our flat at least once a day, so I think it was a hit.

This was by far the hit of the morning as we suspected
(and also why we gave it to him, not Santa Claus!)
She liked my Christmas present too.
What can I say, the girl loves shoes!
Love these guys!

Monday, December 16, 2013

{12 Days of Christmas Traditions} Day Eight: Wrapping

I LOVE wrapping presents.  And like I mentioned in this post, one day I hope to take on Melanie's tradition and have a girls weekend with my sister and sister-in-laws where we get all of our shopping and wrapping done in one fell swoop.  But while I live in Scotland, I depend on my friend The Internet for the shopping part.  As far as wrapping goes, I try to wrap a little each night so that on Christmas Eve, I'm not up till 2 am like I was last year.  I don't want to be super tired on Christmas morning while my kids are feverishly undoing all of my hard wrapping work!  Christmas Eve is for stuffing stockings and putting out Santa's gift, not wrapping my own!  Here is our tree so far.  I'm about halfway there, but the other half is coming on an airplane with my in-laws tomorrow!

All of the presents are way back behind the tree so as to not tempt little hands

I wanted to share a few wrapping traditions I've borrowed from other bloggers (plus a few of my own):

Blogger Tip #1
Shay's organizational tips for wrapping: put all of your wrapping tools in a tote bag, so it's easy to haul to the living room each night for wrapping while watching cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies (I've slightly tweaked her method).

You'll notice that I have packing tape in my tote.  That would be because I wrap all of my kids gifts inside of a cardboard box (usually leftover from an Amazon order though some are actually moving boxes!).  I do this for a few reasons:

#1 My kids are little and shiny packages are hard to resist.  Avery's already opened one present, but since the toys are inside a plain cardboard box,  I have those few extra seconds to catch her before she gets the box open and ruins the surprise for Christmas morning.

#2 Original toy packaging is usually a weird shape, is awkward to wrap, and can induce feelings like this on Christmas morning. So if you take the toy out of the box, put it in a plain cardboard box, and then wrap it, you've killed two birds with one stone.  You just have to remember a good pair of scissors on Christmas morning to get through the packing tape.

Also in my tote:
--wrapping paper
--regular tape
--double stick tape for when I want to be ultra perfectionist wrapper
--tulle for bows - you can get tulle by the roll super cheap at big discount party suppliers like Arne's for you Houston people - it's a much better value than fancy wire Christmas bows (though I LOVE those too) and it's very easy to make your bow look pretty without taking a lot of time

--gift tags from Costco (taken out of the box and put in a ziplock):

I buy gift tags that I can tie on my presents instead of the stick-on kind.  This way, I can reuse the ones for our immediate family each Christmas instead of buying new tags every year.  For our wider family, I buy inexpensive ornaments to use as tags and write with a sharpie on the back of them.  This is probably only something I will do while living in Scotland since even though they come from a store that is basically the British equivalent of Walmart, they come all the way from Scotland which increases their value significantly.

--Christmas tissue paper:

I like to wrap toddler gifts in tissue paper instead of wrapping paper because it's easier for them to tear into. I use the blindingly gold sheet as the bottom layer because you can see through tissue paper if you only use one layer.  And I think the gold is ugly, so this way it gets used without me having to look at it. Naturally my kids think it's the best paper we have.  (Hopefully they will grow out of this...)

Blogger Tip#2:
My all time favorite tip for wrapping comes from Emily (though I can't find her original post).  Emily has 6 kids.  Her youngest is Avery's age and her oldest is still in elementary school.  Needless to say, she needs a system, and she has a really fun one.  She wraps her gifts ahead of time like I do, but since more than half of her kids can read, she doesn't put tags on her gifts.  She chooses a different roll of wrapping paper for each kid and wraps all of their gifts in that one paper. This way her kids can't snoop!  When she stuffs their stockings Christmas Eve, she puts a square of each kid's wrapping paper in the bottom of their stocking so they know which presents belong to them.  And for those of you Crazies who take the time to wrap each of your Santa stocking presents, you could just use their wrapping paper on those presents too to tip them off though clever kids might put two and two together and well you know I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and all that...but this isn't my problem because in my world, Santa is too busy making toys to wrap them too, but I'll talk more about this on Tuesday when I do my post for Day Nine: How We Do Santa.

Do you have any wrapping tips?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

{12 Days of Christmas Traditions} Day Seven: Christmas Shirts

Ok, this tradition isn't very intentional about pointing our kids to Jesus, but it is fun!  And it supports my friend Andrea, so it's intentional in that way.  Andrea owns an Etsy shop and does lots of cute monogrammed things for babies and kids.  She started her shop after her first child was born (she now has 3 cute kiddos!).  Her husband and I taught at the same school way back when!  The pumpkin shirts you saw on my kids in previous posts were also from her shop, as are their St. Patrick's Day and birthday shirts I do each year to go with their party theme (Avery will get this one this year:)), and if you've ever received a baby gift from me, Andrea probably made it!

Once they're big enough for a shirt instead of a onesie, I always order a size up so it will last for 2 years.  Seth's shirt is the one I bough for him 2 years ago (size 2) .  He also has one from last year with Santa on it (size 3).  Avery's is a size 2.

The kids love their shirts though getting a photo of both of them with their reindeers visible was harder than I bargained for!  

you want us to look at the camera?

what if I just smile instead?

Oh, you're trying to take a picture of his reindeer?

Or mine?
Look Mom, I'm smiling and looking!

This is as good as it gets people.
Note to self, do not schedule professional family photos when you have toddlers.
Here are the links to the previous traditions if you missed any:

Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five
Day Six

Monday, December 9, 2013

{12 Days of Christmas Traditions} Day Six: Jesse Tree

First off, Avery found Buddy (our "Elf on the Shelf")  - she's a big fan.  Taylor put him inside of a roll of toilet paper yesterday, and she thought that was the funniest thing ever.  I love that we don't have to be super elaborate with where we hide him because apparently even sitting behind a picture frame is super special. :)

We're onto Day Six: Our Jesse Tree.  Halfway done, but at this rate I won't finish 12 before Christmas.  (Psst - there might not even be 12 things...we'll see!) But this one is the best for keeping our hearts focused on Jesus' birth this Christmas season instead of presents!

And how appropriate because the other day Avery came up to me and said, "I want presents!" I couldn't believe this was coming out of my 20 month old's mouth.  Especially since this is only her second Christmas and I'm pretty sure all she can remember of her first was well, nothing.  I was quickly relieved when the next thing out her mouth was, "I want cake!" And I realized she had seen the birthday gift I had set out on our hall bookcase so that I would remember to deliver it later that day to a friend. Ha! She cracks me up.  I wish you could hear how she says presents, it's so cute. But I digress...

Growing up, my mom implemented the Jesse Tree as our advent calendar of sorts, and it is my favorite tradition that we do with our kids.  (If I lived in Houston, I'd dig out an old photo from my parents house displaying our Jesse Tree and my unfortunate 1980s hair choices.) I know it will get better and better as they get older and can understand it more (the Jesse Tree tradition not my hair, though I have to say it's much improved from that severely misguided perm), but basically each day we go through part of the old testament anticipating the coming Messiah and watching God's plan for mankind unfold. It begins with a tender shoot of hope,

"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch (Jesus!) will bear fruit.  
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him - the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord."  
Isaiah 11:1-2 (NIV) 

When the kingly line of David seems to have ended, when it seems that God's promise in the Old Testament of a Messiah has been forgotten, a shoot springs up.

Each evening (or morning and evening when we get behind!!), we look at the scriptures together as a family using Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree ebook as a guide, tracing God's plan for Jesus' advent into our world.  There is a corresponding ornament to go with each day that the kids take turns hanging on our Jesse Tree.  Click on my sidebar link to get to Ann's site, A Holy Experience - in year's past, if you follow her blog, you can have access to this Jesse Tree devotional.  I'm not sure if that is still the case, but she has it in book form here and you can still get free printable Jesse Tree ornaments from her website.

Seth hanging the ram ornament representing God's faithfulness to Abraham
when he provides a ram for Isaac on Mt. Moriah

Avery checking out the snake and apple ornament representing the fall of man
and God's plan for rescuing us 

If you missed our first few days of traditions, here are the links!

Day One: A Christmas Playlist
Day Two: Elf on the Shelf
Day Three: Christmas Book Countdown
Day Four: Christmas Movies
Day Five: Christmas Shopping

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

{12 Days of Christmas Traditions} Day Five: Christmas Shopping and A Giveaway

Not my giveaway, but Shay and Sheaffer's.  It's a $500 gift card to Nordstrom - get on it (especially if you're not finished Christmas shopping)! Click here to enter.

I'm back after an unplanned hiatus thanks to Thanksgiving shenanigans and a head cold! Below are my previous posts if you're interested.

Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four

Day Five: Christmas Shopping

Ok, so it's December 3rd, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed - did you get any good deals? I definitely took advantage - yay for the internet giving me the ability to shop from the UK at US stores in my pjs with a cup of coffee and Christmas music of my choosing!  Incidentally, I made all of my Christmas songs from Day One (plus a few extra!) into one playlist on youtube - click here if you want it.  I am almost finished with my Christmas shopping - whew!

Christmas can be EXPENSIVE, so I try to plan ahead as much as possible; that way when Black Friday and Cyber Monday roll around, I know what I'm looking for.  I also research ahead of time to check out prices so I know what really is a deal when things go on sale. Otherwise I get super overwhelmed and either buy things that I didn't plan on or freeze up and don't buy anything at all. I also keep my eyes open all year so that when things go on sale or I find a treasure at TJ Maxx in October (Air Lighting McQueen marked down from 55 GBP to 16 GBP - yes, please!) or a garage sale/car boot sale in May (Buzz Lightyear for 2 GBP instead of  67 GBP - are you kidding me?!) Here is a useful and free printable I found on Pinterest to organize myself (I need all the help I can get!).  I'd post mine, but I don't want to give any presents away:).

I also love Melanie's tradition for Christmas shopping.  Basically she grabs her best friend, they send their husbands and children to the ranch for the weekend, and they knock out all of their shopping AND wrapping in a fun girls weekend, but you should read her account because she's hilarious.  I can't wait to do this tradition with my sister and sisters-in-law if I ever live in the same city as any of them!  Maybe next year...

I realize this post would've been more helpful BEFORE Black Friday, but as I mentioned above, it wasn't possible.  I am just now recovering from celebrating Thanksgiving twice last week! Taylor commented last night, "Thanksgiving leftovers again for dinner?" He's not a fan of Thanksgiving - turkey in particular.  I told him he's not going to be excited about my weekly meal plan because it looks like this.

If you have any great turkey recipes so I can change it up at all, please leave me the recipe in the comment section!

Here's a peek into our Thanksgiving weekend:

Indoctrinating our Scottish friends!

Avery takes after Daddy and isn't a big Thanksgiving food fan

Thankful for pigtails and dressing them up Christmas-y for church
now that it's December!

Thankful for these Turkeys!
Thankful for Taylor's old pea coat!

Thankful he loves people so much.
His favorite past time after church is
greeting all of our church family coming for the second service.
Thankful for the best daddy and husband ever!

Thankful for our flat!

Happy (late) Thanksgiving!

I'll be back tomorrow talking about our Jesse Tree Tradition!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

{12 Days of Christmas Traditions} Day Four: Christmas Movies

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Ok - I wrote this post on Friday, but it's lame, so I didn't publish, but I'm going to anyway because I just signed up for bloglovin and claimed my blog and it told me to post the above code to my next post.  So here you go!

This is going to be short (I can hear you sighing in relief after my last 3 posts!) because it's Friday night and this mama is tired! It's been a long day filled with being in the car for hours only to go to Costco (and no it's not a long drive from our house; it's just a long story), teaching a German friend how to make Thanksgiving side dishes, reading Gingerbread Baby and Each Peach Pear Plum, racing Miles Axelrod against Chick Hicks (Miles totally won by the way...though I'm unclear on how he escaped from jail), cleaning up spilled milk etc.  I might just have to turn in early and watch a Christmas movie, but first I'll give you my list of top ten must see before December 25th.  Before I start, here are the links for the past posts.

{12 Days of Christmas Traditions}
Day One: Christmas Playlist
Day Two: Elf on the Shelf
Day Three: Christmas Book Countdown

Day Four: Christmas Movies
Here is my top 10:

#10 - Christmas Story

I know,  how could this be #10? Because they play it 24 hours straight on Christmas day that's why.  It's too much a part of Christmas for me not to watch it each year, but once is plenty.

#9 - How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Last year, I showed this movie to Seth for the first time.  He's a HUGE Dr. Seuss fan and of course loved it.  And yes.  We've already watched it this season. :)

#8 - Home Alone 2

If you loved the first one, you loved this one too! And as you'll see, I LOVE the first one.

#7 - Miracle on 34th Street


#6 - Any cheesy Hallmark Christmas movie

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but if you're looking for me at my in-laws house at Christmas time, if there is any down time, it's safe to bet I'm on the couch watching a Hallmark Christmas movie with my mom-in-law.

#5 - Iron Man 3

Taylor said this one shouldn't count, but I plan on adding it to my Christmas movie repertoire.  I know it's a weird choice, but I LOVE all of the Iron Man movies as well as The Avengers.  And Iron Man 3 is set during Christmastime - so there.

#4 - The Family Man

Taylor had never seen this movie before we got married, so it was fun watching it with him the first time.  He loves it and cries every time we watch it when Nicolas Cage gives his speech at the airport. This movie has such a great message!

#3 - Elf

Do I need to give a reason?

#2 - Christmas Vacation

This one narrowly misses #1.  I love the family dynamics and the neighbors too! But can someone please explain to me why the grandparents were given the room with the bunk beds and the brother and sister had to share a bed?  This always bothered me.

#1 - Home Alone

There are a handful of movies I can vividly remember watching in the theater as a child: The Little Mermaid, Father of the Bride, and Home Alone and so each of them are dear to my heart.  My memory of watching Home Alone is one of pure laughter (and I'm a tough sell); it brings back such great memories from my childhood. And I'm pretty sure it's my brother's favorite movie of all time - Mark, we'll have to watch it on Skype or something this year :).

I left off It's a Wonderful Life on purpose - maybe this makes me a terrible person, but bo-ring!

Oh and as a side note, did any of you children of the 80s watch that Alien Santa Claus movie?  I can't remember what it's called, but my grandmother owned it and Mark and I looked forward to watching it every year - not sure why we loved it so much because I'm pretty sure it was super lame, but that was one of our favorite Christmas traditions when we celebrated with that side of the family. :)

What are your must see Christmas movies?  What about kid Christmas movies?